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Australia Twice Traversed, The Romance of Exploration by Ernest Giles

Part 5 out of 11

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face of the range, where there was water. While they were away some
ducks visited the camp, but the tea-tree was too thick to allow us to
shoot any of them. The day was cool, although there is a great
oppression in the atmosphere, and it is impossible to tell by one's
feelings what might be the range of the thermometer, as I have often
felt it hotter on some days with the thermometer at 96 or 98 degrees
than when it ranged up to 108 or 110 degrees. The afternoons are
excessively relaxing, for although the mercury falls a little after
three o'clock, still the morning's heat appears to remain until the
sun has actually set. It is more than probable that the horses having
been hunted by the natives, and having found more water, will not come
back here of their own accord to water any more; so I shall keep one
tied up at the camp, to fetch the others up with every morning.

And now comes Thursday, 25th December, Christmas Day, 1873. Ah, how
the time flies! Years following years, steal something every day; at
last they steal us from ourselves away. What Horace says is, Eheu
fugaces, anni labuntur postume, postume:--Years glide away, and are
lost to me, lost to me.

While Jimmy Andrews was away after the others, upon the horse that was
tied up all night, we were startled out of our propriety by the howls
and yells of a pack of fiends in human form and aboriginal appearance,
who had clambered up the rocks just above our camp. I could only see
some ten or a dozen in the front, but scores more were dodging in and
out among the rocks. The more prominent throng were led by an ancient
individual, who, having fitted a spear, was just in the act of
throwing it down amongst us, when Gibson seized a rifle, and presented
him with a conical Christmas box, which smote the rocks with such
force, and in such near proximity to his hinder parts, that in a great
measure it checked his fiery ardour, and induced most of his more
timorous following to climb with most perturbed activity over the
rocks. The ancient more slowly followed, and then from behind the
fastness of his rocky shield, he spoke spears and boomerangs to us,
though he used none. He, however, poured out the vials of his wrath
upon us, as he probably thought to some purpose. I was not linguist
enough to be able to translate all he said; but I am sure my free
interpretation of the gist of his remarks is correct, for he
undoubtedly stigmatised us as a vile and useless set of lazy,
crawling, white-faced wretches, who came sitting on hideous brutes of
hippogryphs, being too lazy to walk like black men, and took upon
ourselves the right to occupy any country or waters we might chance to
find; that we killed and ate any wallabies and other game we happened
to see, thereby depriving him and his friends of their natural, lawful
food, and that our conduct had so incensed himself and his noble
friends, who were now in the shelter of the rocks near him, that he
begged us to take warning that it was the unanimous determination of
himself and his noble friends to destroy such vermin as he considered
us, and our horses to be, and drive us from the face of the earth.

It appeared to me, however, that his harangue required punctuation, so
I showed him the rifle again, whereupon he incontinently indulged in a
full stop. The natives then retired from those rocks, and commenced
their attack by throwing spears through the tea-tree from the opposite
side of the creek. Here we had the back of our gunyah for a shield,
and could poke the muzzles of our guns and rifles through the
interstices of the boughs. We were compelled to discharge our pieces
at them to ensure our peace and safety.

Our last discharge drove away the enemy, and soon after, Jimmy came
with all the horses. Gibson shot a wallaby, and we had fried chops for
our Christmas dinner. We drew from the medical department a bottle of
rum to celebrate Christmas and victory. We had an excellent dinner
(for explorers), although we had eaten our Christmas pudding two days
before. We perhaps had no occasion to envy any one their Christmas
dinner, although perhaps we did. Thermometer 106 degrees in the shade.
On this occasion Mr. Tietkens, who was almost a professional, sang us
some songs in a fine, deep, clear voice, and Gibson sang two or three
love songs, not altogether badly; then it was Jimmy's turn. He said he
didn't know no love songs, but he would give us Tommy or Paddy
Brennan. This gentleman appears to have started in business as a
highwayman in the romantic mountains of Limerick. One verse that Jimmy
gave, and which pleased us most, because we couldn't quite understand
it, was

"It was in sweet Limerick (er) citty
That he left his mother dear;
And in the Limerick (er) mountains,
He commenced his wild caroo-oo."

Upon our inquiring what a caroo was, Jimmy said he didn't know. No
doubt it was something very desperate, and we considered we were
perhaps upon a bit of a wild caroo ourselves.

The flies had now become a most terrible plague, especially to the
horses, but most of all to the unfortunate that happens to be tied up.
One horse, when he found he could not break away, threw himself down
so often and so violently, and hurt himself so much, that I was
compelled to let him go, unless I had allowed him to kill himself,
which he would certainly have done.

A small grape-like fruit on a light green bush of the sandal-wood
kind, having one soft stone, was got here. This fruit is black when
ripe, and very good eating raw. We tried them cooked with sugar as
jam, and though the others liked them very much, I could not touch
them. The afternoons were most oppressive, and we had our usual
earthquakes; one on the 28th causing a more than usual falling of
rocks and smashing of tea-trees.

For a few days I was taking a rest. I was grieved to find that the
water gradually ceased running earlier than formerly--that is to say,
between eleven and twelve--the usual time had been between two and
three p.m.; but by the morning every little basin was refilled. The
phases of the moon have evidently something to do with the water
supply. As the moon waxes, the power of the current wanes, and vice
versa. On the 1st January, 1874, the moon was approaching its full, a
quarter's change of the moon being the only time rain is likely to
fall in this country; rain is threatening now every day. After a hot
and sultry night, on the 2nd, at about two o'clock, a fine
thunder-shower from the east came over the range, and though it did
not last very long, it quite replenished the water supply in the
creek, and set it running again after it had left off work for the
day. This shower has quite reanimated my hopes, and Mr. Tietkens and I
at once got three horses, and started off to reach the distant range,
hoping now to find some water which would enable us to reach it. For
ten miles from the camp the shower had extended; but beyond that
distance no signs of it were visible anywhere. On the 4th we found a
clay-pan, having a clay-hole at one end with some mud in it, and which
the natives had but just left, but no water; then another, where, as
thunderstorms were flying about in all directions, we dug out a clay
tank. While at work our clothes were damped with a sprinkling, but not
enough rain fell to leave any on the ground. It seemed evident I must
pack out water from Fort Mueller, if ever I reached the new feature,
as Nature evidently did not intend to assist, though it seemed
monstrous to have to do so, while the sky was so densely overcast and
black, and threatening thunderstorms coming up from all directions,
and carrying away, right over our heads, thousands of cubic acres of
water which must fall somewhere. I determined to wait a few days and
see the upshot of all these threatenings. To the east it was
undoubtedly raining, though to the west the sky was beautifully clear.
We returned to the native clay-pan, hoping rain might have fallen, but
it was drier than when we left it. The next morning the clear sky
showed that all the rains had departed. We deepened the native
clay-hole, and then left for the depot, and found some water in a
little hole about ten miles from it. We rested the horses while we dug
a tank, and drained all the water into it; not having a pickaxe, we
could not get down deep enough.

From here I intended to pack some water out north. While we were
digging, another thunderstorm came up, sprinkling us with a few drops
to show its contempt; it then split in halves, going respectively
north and south, apparently each dropping rain on the country they
passed over.

On reaching the camp, we were told that two nice showers had fallen,
the stream now showing no signs of languishing all the day long. With
his usual intelligence, Jimmy Andrews had pulled a double-barrelled
gun out from under a heap of packbags and other things by the barrel;
of course, the hammer got caught and snapped down on the cartridge,
firing the contents, but most fortunately missing his body by half an
inch. Had it been otherwise, we should have found him buried, and
Gibson a lunatic and alone. No natives had appeared while we were
away; as I remembered what the old gentleman told me about keeping
away, so I hoped he would do the same, on account of my parting
remarks to him, which it seems he must have understood.

In the middle of the night my little dog Cocky rushed furiously out of
the tent, and began to bark at, and chase some animal round the camp;
he eventually drove it right into the tent. In the obscured moonlight
I supposed it was a native dog, but it was white, and looked exactly
like a large fat lamb. It was, at all events, an innocent lamb to come
near us, for as it sauntered away, I sent a revolver bullet after it,
and it departed at much greater speed, squealing and howling until out
of earshot.

On the 7th Mr. Tietkens and I again departed for the north. That night
we got wet through; there was plenty of water, but none that would
remain. Being sure that the native clay-hole would now be full, we
passed it on our left, and at our outmost tank at nineteen miles were
delighted to find that both it and the clay-pan near it were full. We
called this the Emu Tank. We now went to the bare red hill with pines,
previously mentioned, and found a trickling flow of water in a small
gully. I hope it will trickle till I return. We are now fifty miles
from Fort Mueller, and the distant ranges seemed even farther away
than that.

Moving north, we went over a mass of open-rolling sandhills with
triodia, and that other abominable plant I call the sage-bush. In
appearance it is something like low tea-tree, but it differs entirely
from that family, inasmuch as it utterly abhors water. Although it is
not spiny like the triodia, it is almost as annoying, both to horse
and man, as it grows too high for either to step over without
stretching, and it is too strong to be easily moved aside; hence,
horse-tracks in this region go zigzag.

At thirty-five miles the open sandhills ceased, and scrubs came on. It
was a cool and cloudy day. We passed through a few groves of the
pretty desert oak-trees, which I have not seen for some time; a few
native poplars and currajongs were also seen to-day. The horses
wandered a long way back in the night.

After travelling fifteen miles, we were now rapidly approaching the
range, and we debouched upon a eucalyptus flat, which was covered with
a beautiful carpet of verdure, and not having met with gumtrees for
some time, those we saw here, looked exceedingly fine, and the bark
dazzling white. Here we found a clay crab-hole. These holes are
so-called in parts of Australia, usually near the coasts, where
freshwater crabs and crayfish bury themselves in the bottoms of places
where rain water often lodges; the holes these creatures make are
tubes of two, three, or four feet deep, whose sides and bottom are
cemented, and which hold water like a glass bottle; in these tubes
they remain till rain again lodges above, when for a time they are
released. The crab-hole we found contained a little water, which our
horses drank with great avidity. The range was now only six or seven
miles off, and it stood up bold and abrupt, having steep and deep
gorges here and there, in its southern front. It was timberless and
whitish-looking, and I had no doubt of finding water at it. I was
extremely annoyed to discover that my field glasses, an excellent
pair, had been ripped off my saddle in the scrubs, and I should now be
disappointed in obtaining any distant view from the summit.

"They were lost to the view like the sweet morning's dew;
They had been, and were not, was all that I knew."

From the crab-hole, in seven miles we reached a gorge in the mountain
side, travelling through scrub, over quartz, pebbly hills, and
occasional gum flats, all trending west, probably forming a creek in
that direction.

In the gorge facing us we could discover a glittering little thread of
water pouring down in a cascade from the top of the mountain into the
gorge below, and upon reaching it we found, to our great delight, that
we were upon the stony bank of a beautiful and pellucid little stream,
whose almost invisibly bright water was so clear that not till our
horses splashed it up with their feet could we quite realise this
treasure trove. It was but a poor place for the horses to graze, on
account of the glen being so stony and confined, but there was no
occasion for them to ramble far to get plenty of grass, or a shady
place either. We had some dinner and a most agreeable rest,--

"'Neath the gum-trees' shade reclining,
Where the dark green foliage twining,
Screened us from the fervid shining
Of the noontide sun."

This spot was distant about ninety miles from Fort Mueller, in a
straight line. The day was cool and breezy. After our dinner we walked
up to the foot of the cascade, along the margin of the transparent
stream, which meandered amongst great boulders of rock; at the foot we
found the rocks rose almost perpendicularly from a charming little
basin, into which the stream from above and the spray from below
mingled with a most melodious sound, so pleasant to the ear at any
time, but how much more to our drought-accustomed senses; continually
sounding like the murmur in the sea-shell, which, as the poets say,
remembering its ancient and august abode, still murmurs as it murmured
then. The water fell from a height of 150 feet; the descent was not
quite unbroken. A delightful shower of spray fell for many yards
outside the basin, inviting to a bath, which we exquisitely enjoyed;
the basin was not more than six feet deep. I am quite delighted with
this new feature. There were gorges to the right of us, gorges to the
left of us, and there was a gorge all round us. I shall not stay now
to explore them, but will enter upon the task con amore when I bring
the whole party here. I called these the Alice Falls, after one of my
sisters. It was impossible to ascend the mountain via the cascade, so
we had to flank it to reach the top. The view from thence, though
inspiriting, was still most strange. Ranges upon ranges, some far and
some near, bounded the horizon at all points. There was a high,
bold-looking, mount or range to the north-west forty or fifty miles
off. Up to a certain time we always called this the North-West
Mountain, as it bore in that direction when first seen, until we
discovered its proper name, when I christened it Mount Destruction.
Other ranges intervened much nearer. The particular portion of the
range we were now on, was 1000 feet above the surrounding level. I
found the boiling-point of water on this summit was 206 degrees, being
the same as upon the summit of the Sentinel--that is to say, 3085 feet
above the sea. The country intervening between this and the other
ranges in view, appeared open and good travelling ground. The ranges
beyond this have a brownish tinge, and are all entirely different from
those at Fort Mueller. The rock formation here is a white and pinkish
conglomerate granite. All the ranges visible are entirely timberless,
and are all more or less rounded and corrugated, some having conical
summits, and some looking like enormous eggs standing up on end; this
for the first view. We descended, caught our horses, and departed for
Fort Mueller, much gratified at the discoveries already made at this
new geographical feature. On the road back I recovered my glasses. The
day was most deliciously cool, there was a sweet perfume in the air,
the morning was like one of those, so enjoyable in the spring, in the
far-off agricultural districts of the fertile portions of the southern
and eastern Colonies. When we reached the red bare hill, fifty miles
from home, we found the water had ceased to flow.

At our Emu Tank all the outside surface water was gone, the tank only
holding some. Our three horses greatly reduced its volume, and,
fearing it would all evaporate before we could return, we cut a
quantity of bushes and sticks to protect it from the sun. Remounting,
we now made for the native clay-hole that we had avoided in going out.
The outside water was now all but gone, but the hole still contained
some, though not sufficient for all the horses; we set to work and
chopped out another hole with a tomahawk, and drained all the thick
water off the clay-pan into it. Then we cut boughs, bushes, and sticks
to cover them, and proceeded homewards. On reaching the ten-mile or
kangaroo tank, we found to our disgust that the water was nearly all
gone, and our original tank not large enough, so we chopped out
another and drained all the surplus water into it. Then the boughs and
bushes and sticks for a roof must be got, and by the time this was
finished we were pretty well sick of tank making. Our hands were
blistered, our arms were stiff, and our whole bodies bathed in streams
of perspiration, though it was a comparatively cool day. We reached
home very late on the 13th, having left the range on the 10th. I was
glad to hear that the natives had not troubled the camp in my absence.
Another circumstance gratified us also, and that was, Gibson had shot
a large wallaby; we had not tasted meat since we left on the 7th.


To-day, 14th, we were getting all our packs and things ready for a
start into the new and northern regions, when at eleven a.m. Mr.
Tietkens gave the alarm that all the rocks overhead were lined with
natives, who began to utter the most direful yells so soon as they
found themselves discovered. Their numbers were much larger than
before, and they were in communication with others in the tea-tree on
the opposite side of the creek, whose loud and inharmonious cries made
even the heavens to echo with their sounds. They began operations by
poising their spears and waving us away. We waited for some little
time, watching their movements, with our rifles in our hands. A flight
of spears came crashing through the flimsy sides of our house, the
roof and west gable being the only parts thickly covered, and they
could see us jumping about inside to avoid their spears. Then a flight
of spears came from the concealed enemy in the tea-tree. Mr. Tietkens
and I rushed out, and fired right into the middle of the crowd. From
the rocks behind which they hid, they sent another flight of spears;
how we escaped them I can't imagine. In the meantime Gibson and Jimmy
were firing through the boughs, and I decided that it was for us to
take the aggressive. We rushed up the rocks after the enemy, when they
seemed to drop like caterpillars, as instantaneously, they were all
down underneath us right at the camp. I was afraid they would set fire
to it; we however finally drove them from our stronghold, inducing
them to decamp more or less the worse, and leave behind them a
considerable quantity of military stores, in the shape of spears,
wommerahs, waddies, wallabies' skins, owls, fly-flappers, red ochre,
and numerous other minor valuables. These we brought in triumph to the
camp. It always distressed me to have to fire at these savages, and it
was only when our lives were in most imminent danger that we did so,
for, as Iago says, though in the trade of war I have slain men, yet do
I hold it very stuff o' the conscience to do no contrived murder. I
lack iniquity, sometimes, to do me service. We then went on with our
work, though expecting our foes to return, but we were not again
molested, as they now probably thought we were vipers that would not
stand too much crowding.

Three horses were missing, therefore we could not leave that day, and
when they were found on the next, it was too late to start. I tied one
of these wretches up all night, so as to get the mob early to-morrow.
I was very uneasy about the water in our tanks, as every hour's delay
was of the greatest consequence. I had no very great regret at leaving
this depot, except that I had not been able to push out more than 150
miles to the west from it. I now thought by going to the new northern
range, that my progress thence might be easier. We may perhaps have
paid the passing tribute of a sigh at leaving our little gardens, for
the seeds planted in most of them had grown remarkably well. The
plants that throve best here were Indian gram, maize, peas, spinach,
pumpkins, beans, and cucumbers; melons also grew pretty well, with
turnips and mustard. Only two wattles out of many dozens sown here
came up, and no eucalypts have appeared, although the seeds of many
different kinds were set. Gibson had been most indefatigable in
keeping the little gardens in order, and I believe was really grieved
to leave them, but the inexorable mandates of circumstance and duty
forced us from our pleasant places, to wander into ampler realms and
spaces, where no foot has left its traces. Departing, still we left
behind us some lasting memorials of our visit to this peculiar place,
which, though a city of refuge to us, was yet a dangerous and a
dreadful home. The water supply was now better than when we arrived.

"Our fount disappearing,
From the rain-drop did borrow,
To me comes great cheering,
I leave it to-morrow."

There were a number of opossums here which often damaged the garden
produce in the night. There were various dull-plumaged small birds,
with hawks, crows, and occasionally ducks, and one abominable croaking
creature at night used to annoy me exceedingly, and though I often
walked up the glen I could never discover what sort of bird it was. It
might have been a raven; yes, a raven never flitting may be sitting,
may be sitting, on those shattered rocks of wretchedness--on that
Troglodytes' shore, where in spirit I may wander, o'er those arid
regions yonder; but where I wish to squander, time and energies no
more. Though a most romantic region, its toils and dangers legion, my
memory oft besieging, what time cannot restore; again I hear the
shocks of the shattering of the rocks, see the wallabies in flocks,
all trembling at the roar, of the volcanic reverberations, or
seismatic detonations, which peculiar sensations I wish to know no
more. The horses were mustered at last, and at length we were about to
depart, not certainly in the direction I should have wished to go, but
still to something new.

Fort Mueller, of course, was named after my kind friend the Baron*,
who was a personal contributor to the fund for this expedition. It was
really the most astonishing place it has ever been my fortune to
visit. Occasionally one would hear the metallic sounding clang, of
some falling rock, smashing into the glen below, toppled from its
eminence by some subterranean tremour or earthquake shock, and the
vibrations of the seismatic waves would precipitate the rocks into
different groups and shapes than they formerly possessed. I had many
strange, almost superstitious feelings with regard to this singular
spot, for there was always a strange depression upon my spirits whilst
here, arising partly perhaps from the constant dread of attacks from
the hostile natives, and partly from the physical peculiarities of the
region itself.

"On all there hung a shadow and a fear,
A sense of mystery, the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
This region's haunted."

On the 16th we departed, leaving to the native owners of the soil,
this singular glen, where the water flowed only in the night, where
the earthquake and the dry thunderstorm occurred every day, and turned
our backs for the last time upon

"Their home by horror haunted,
Their desert land enchanted,"

and plunged again into the northern wilderness.


The Kangaroo Tanks.
Horses stampede.
Water by digging.
Staggering horses.
Deep rock-reservoir.
Glen Cumming.
Mount Russell.
Glen Gerald.
Glen Fielder.
The Alice Falls.
Separated hills.
Splendid-looking creek.
Excellent country.
The Pass of the Abencerrages.
Sladen Water.
An alarm.
Jimmy's anxiety for a date.
Mount Barlee.
Mount Buttfield.
"Stagning" water.
Ranges continue to the west.
A notch.
Dry rocky basins.
Horses impounded.
Desolation Glen.
Wretched night.
Terrible Billy.
A thick clump of gums.
A strong and rapid stream.
The Stemodia viscosa.
Head-first in a bog.
Leuhman's Spring.
Groener's and Tyndall's Springs.
The Great Gorge.
Fort McKellar.
The Gorge of Tarns.
Ants again.
Swim in the tarn.
View from summit of range.
An explorer's accomplishments.
Cool and shady caves.
Large rocky tarn.
The Circus.
High red sandhills to the west.
Ancient lake bed.
Burrowing wallabies.
The North-west Mountain.
Jimmy and the grog bottle.
The Rawlinson Range.
Moth- and fly-catching plant.
An inviting mountain.
Inviting valley.
Fruitless search for water.
Ascend the mountain.
Mount Robert.
Dead and dying horses.
Description of the mob.
Mount Destruction.
Life for water.
Hot winds.
Retreat to Sladen Water.
Wild ducks.
An ornithological lecture.
Shift the camp.
Cockatoo parrots.
Clouds of pigeons.
Dragged by Diaway.
Attacked by the natives.

It was late on the 16th of January when we left Fort Mueller. We
reached our first or Kangaroo Tanks in eleven miles, so called as we
saw several kangaroos there on our first visit; but only having
revolvers, we could not get near enough to shoot any of them. The
water had remained in them quite as well as I could expect, but we did
not use it that night. The horses were evidently inclined to ramble
back, so we short-hobbled them; but as soon as it became dusk, they
all went off at a gallop. Mr. Tietkens and I went after them, but the
wretches would not allow us to get up with them. The moment they heard
us breaking any sticks in the scrubs behind them, off they started
again; we had to go five or six miles before we could get hold of any
of them, and it being cloudy and dark, we hardly knew which way to
drive them back; at length we saw the reflection of a fire, and it
proved we were taking them right; it was midnight when we got back. We
tied one up and waited for morning, when we found they were all gone
again, but having one to ride we thought to get them pretty soon. It
now appeared that in the scrubs and darkness last night we had missed
three. Now we had to use our tank water, the three missing horses not
being found by night. The missing horses were found the next day, the
18th, and we continued our journey from these now empty tanks at
twelve o'clock, and reached the native clay-pan tanks by night. The
second one we had dug, though well shaded, was quite dry, and the
native hole contained only sufficient for about half the horses. Some
drank it all up, the rest going without, but we consoled them with the
assurance that they should have some when we reached the top or Emu
Tank. We wanted to fill up our own water-bags, as our supply was
exhausted. On reaching it, however, to our disgust we found it
perfectly dry, and as we couldn't get any water, the only thing to do
was to keep pushing on, as far and as fast as we could, towards the
Alice Falls. We got some water by digging in a small Grevillea
(beef-wood-tree), water-channel, about three miles this side of it.
The horses were exceedingly thirsty, and some of them when they got
water were afflicted with staggers. The grass was beautifully green.
The last few days have been comparatively cool. As the horses had two
heavy days' stages, I did not move the camp, but Mr. Tietkens and I
rode off to the main range to explore the gorges we had formerly seen
to the east. The country at the foot of the range was very stony,
rough, and scrubby. We reached the mouth of the most easterly gorge,
tied up our horses, and walked up. We very soon came upon a fine deep
long rock-reservoir with water running into and out of it. I could not
touch the bottom with over twenty feet of string. The rocky sides of
this gorge rose almost perpendicularly above us, and the farther we
went up, the more water we saw, until our passage was completely
stopped by the abruptness of the walls and the depth of the water at
their feet; I called this Glen Cumming*. The particular part or hill
of the range on which this reservoir exists I named Mount Russell*;
this was the most eastern mount of the range. We then turned westerly
towards the Alice Falls, and in a mile and a half we came to another
gorge, where there was a cascade falling into a very clear round basin
over twenty feet deep, washed out of solid white stone. There were
numerous other basins, above and below the large one. I called this
place Glen Gerald. Proceeding on our way, we came to another cascade
and basin; the fall of water was from a lesser height. I called this
Glen Fielder. From here we went to the Alice Falls, rested the horses,
and had a swim and delicious shower bath. A warm wind from the
south-east prevailed all day.

I wished to find a road through or over this range, but will evidently
have to go farther to the west, where at seven or eight miles there
are apparently two separate hummocks. We returned to camp quite
charmed with our day's ramble, although the country was very rough and
stony. The vegetation about here is in no way different from any which
exists between this range and Mount Olga. Making a move now in the
direction of the two apparently separated hills, we passed through
some scrub of course, and then came to grassy gum-tree or eucalyptus
flats, with water-channels. At twelve miles we came fairly on to the
banks of a splendid-looking creek, with several sheets of water; its
bed was broad, with many channels, the intermediate spaces being
thickly set with long coarse green rushes. The flow of the water was
to the north, and the creek evidently went through a glen or pass; the
timber grew thick and vigorous; the water had a slightly brackish
taste. All through the pass we saw several small sheets of water. One
fine hole had great quantities of ducks on it, but Gibson, who started
to shoot some of them, couldn't get his gun to go off, but the ducks'
firearms acted much better, for they went off extremely well.

We encamped at a place near a recent native camp, where the grass was
very good. This was evidently a permanently watered pass, with some
excellent country round it to the south.

The range appeared to continue to the west, and this seemed the only
pass through it. I called this the Pass of the Abencerrages--that is
to say, the Children of the Saddle. The creek and its waters I named
Sladen Water, after the late Sir Charles Sladen*. This evening, having
had a comfortable bath, I was getting my blankets ready for bed when
Jimmy Andrews came rushing over to me. I immediately grabbed a rifle,
as I thought it was an attack by the natives. He merely begged to know
what day of the month it was, and requested me to mention the fact,
with day and date in my journal, that--yes, Gibson was actually seen
in the act of bathing. I thought Jimmy was joking, as this I could not
believe without the sensible and true avouch of mine own eyes, but
there was the naked form, the splashing water, and the swimming dog.
It was a circumstance well worth recording, for I am sure it is the
first full bodied ablution he has indulged in since leaving Mount
Olga, eighteen weeks to a day, and I am not at all sure that he bathed
there. It was therefore with great pleasure that I recorded the
unusual circumstance. When Jimmy left me grinning, and I had time to
get over my surprise, and give mature consideration to this unusual
matter, it did seem to me better, having the welfare of the whole of
the members of my expedition at heart--I say, it did appear better, on
the principle of the greatest good for the greatest number, that
Gibson should endure the agony of an all-over wash, than that we
should be attacked and perhaps killed by the natives.

The flies on this range are evidently very numerous, for their
attention to our eyes is not only persistent but very annoying.

This morning I made the latitude of this pass to be 24 degrees 58',
and longitude 127 degrees 55'. We followed this creek; travelling
along its banks, we found native huts very numerous, and for a few
miles some sheets of water were seen; the bed then became too sandy;
its course was about north-west. In eight or nine miles we found that
sandhill and casuarina country existed, and swallowed up the
unfortunate creek. The main line of ranges continued westerly, and,
together with another range in front of us to the north, formed a kind
of crescent. No pass appeared to exist between them. I now went to the
eastern end of a range that lay to the north of us, and passing over a
low ridge had a good view of the surrounding country. Ranges appeared
in almost all directions; the principal ones lay to the west and
north-west. One conspicuous abrupt-faced mount bore north 17 degrees
east; this I named Mount Barlee. There were others to the
east-north-east, and the long sweep of the range from which we had
come to the south. One hill near us looked inviting, and we found a
deep rocky gorge with water in its neighbourhood. In fact there were
several fine rocky basins ten and twelve feet deep, though they were
very rough places to get horses to. I called the high hill Mount
Buttfield. It appeared as if no rain had fallen here lately; the water
in all these holes was greenish and stagnant, or stagning as Gibson
and Jimmy called it. The grass, such as there was, was old, white, and
dry. The country down below, north-wards, consisted of open, sandy,
level, triodia ground, dotted with a few clumps of the desert oak,
giving a most pleasing appearance to the eye, but its reality is
startlingly different, keeping, as it were, the word of promise to the
eye, but breaking it to the hope. While the horses were being
collected this morning I ascended Mount Buttfield, and found that
ranges continued to the west for a considerable distance. I now
decided to make for a notch or fall in the main range we had left,
which now bore nearly west, as there appeared to be a creek issuing
from the hills there. Travelling over casuarina sandhills and some
level triodia ground, we found there was a creek with eucalypts on it,
but it was quite evident that none of the late showers had fallen
there. Hardly any grass was to be found, the ground being open and
stony, with thorny vegetation.

In the main channel we could only find deep, rocky, dry basins, but up
a small branch gorge I found three small basins with a very limited
supply of water, not sufficient for my horses both now and in the
morning, so we thought it better that they should do without it
to-night. Above the camp there was a kind of pound, so we put all the
horses up there, as it was useless to let them ramble all over the
country in the night. The ants were excessively troublesome here. I
could not find sufficient shade for the thermometer to-day, but kept
it as cool as I could for fear of its bursting.

This glen, or rather the vegetation which had existed in it, had been
recently burned by the natives, and it had in consequence a still more
gloomy and dreary appearance. I called it by its proper name, that is
to say, Desolation Glen.

I could get no rest last night on account of the ants, the wretches
almost ate me alive, and the horses tried so often to pass by the camp
that I was delighted at the reappearance of the morn. Mr. Tietkens
also had to shift his camp, and drove the horses back, but ants as big
as elephants, or an earthquake that would destroy the world, would
never wake Gibson and Jimmy. It was difficult to get the horses to the
place where the water was, and we could only manage three at a time.
There was fortunately just enough water, though none to spare. One old
fool of a horse must needs jump into an empty rock basin; it was deep
and funnel shaped, so that he could not stand when he got there, so he
fell, and had knocked himself about terribly before we could get him
out. Indeed, I never thought he could come out whole, and I was
preparing to get him out in pieces when he made one last super-equine
exertion, and fell up and out at the same time.

The delay in watering the horses, and extracting Terrible Billy from
the basin, made it twelve o'clock before we could turn our backs upon
this hideous place, hoping to find no more like it. We travelled along
the stony slope of the range nearly west, and in less than two miles
we crossed a small creek-channel with a thick clump of gum-trees right
under the range. The tops of a second clump were also visible about
half a mile off. Mr. Tietkens went to search down Desolation Creek. I
directed Gibson to go on with the horses to the foot of a hill which I
pointed out to him, and to remain there until I overtook him. Up the
creek close to the clump of timber the whole glen was choked with a
rank vegetation, beneath which the water ran in a strong and rapid
stream that issued to the upper air from the bottom of the range. In
trying to cross this channel, my horse became entangled in the dense
vegetation, whose roots, planted in rich and oozy soil, induced the
tops of this remarkable plant to grow ten, twelve, and fifteen feet
high. It had a nasty gummy, sticky feel when touched, and emitted a
strong, coarse odour of peppermint. The botanical name of this plant
is Stemodia viscosa. This vegetation was not substantial enough to
sustain my horse, and he plunged so violently that he precipitated me
head-first into the oozy, black, boggy mass, and it appeared as though
he must be swallowed up alive. I had in such a place great difficulty
in getting my saddle, rifle, revolver, and other gear off the animal's
back. I gave up all hopes of recovering the horse, for he had ceased
struggling, and was settling down bodily in the morass.

I left him and ran shouting after Gibson and Jimmy, but they were too
far away; Mr. Tietkens, however, on his way after them, heard me and
rode up. His astonishment was great indeed when I showed him the
horse, now deeply imbedded in the bog. The vegetation could hold us up
above the running stream, and at last, but how I never could make out,
by dint of flogging, helping to lift, and yelling at him, the
creature, when he found we were trying to help him, interested himself
once more in the matter, and at length we got him out of this
bottomless pit. He was white when he went in, but coal black when he
came out. There were no rock-holes at the head of this spring; the
water drains from underneath the mountains, and is permanent beyond a
doubt. I called this Luehman's Springs. The water appears on the
surface for a little over a mile. Having re-saddled my dirty black
beast, we went to the next gorge, where the clump of eucalyptus was
very thick and fine-looking; the water here springing from the hills
as at the last, we were mighty skeery how we approached this. A fine
stream of water ran here.

After this we found five other glens with running springs, in about as
many miles; they were named respectively, but afterwards, Groener's
and Tyndall's Springs, the Great Gorge, Fort McKellar*, where I
subsequently had a depot, and the Gorge of Tarns. Fort McKellar is the
most western water suitable for a depot, and is the most agreeable
encampment. Many of these glens had fine rock-holes as well as running
springs; most of the channels were full of bulrushes and the peculiar
Stemodia. This plant is of a dark-green colour, of a pulpy nature,
with a thick leaf, and bears a minute violet-coloured flower. It
seemed very singular that all these waters should exist close to the
place I called Desolation Glen; it appeared as if it must be the only
spot on the range that was destitute of water. After some time spent
in exploring these charming places, it was time to look about for the
horses, and though Gibson had crossed all these channels within sight
of their waters, he never stopped for a moment to see if the horses
would drink. We expected to overtake him in a mile or two, as the hill
pointed out to him was now close at hand. The country was so solid and
stony that we could not follow the tracks of the horses for any
distance, they could only be picked up here and there, but the country
being open, though rising and falling into gullies and ridges, we
thought to see them at any moment, so that, as we had found so many
waters and the day was Sunday, I wanted to camp early and rest.
Gibson, however, kept driving on, driving on, going in no particular
direction--north, north-north-west, north-west, south-west, north
again; and having got such a start of us, it was just night when we
overtook him, still driving on up a dry creek, going due south, slap
into the range amongst rocks and stones, etc. I was greatly annoyed,
for, having found six splendid permanent waters, we had to camp
without a drop of water either for ourselves or our horses, the
animals being driven about the whole day when they might have had a
fine day's rest, with green grass and splendid water. It is impossible
to drill sense into some people's heads; but there--perhaps I had no
sense in coming into such a region myself.

A fierce, warm south wind blew all night; the ants were dreadful, and
would not allow me to sleep for a minute, though the others did not
seem to feel them. The range still continued to the west, and other
creeks were visible in that direction, but I decided to return to the
last water I had seen--that is to say, at the Gorge of Tarns. Not
being able to sleep, I went after the horses long before daylight, and
found they had wandered a terrible distance, although short-hobbled. I
soon found out the cause, for one horse had been loose all night with
his pack on, and had consequently led the others a fine jaunt. When
all were found and packed, we returned to the gorge which, in
consequence of its having so many splendid basins of deep water, I
named as before said. On arriving, we fixed our camp close up to the
large basins, but the horses could water a mile below, where some
tea-tree grew, and where the water reappeared upon the surface after
sinking beneath it. There was some good feed here for the horses, but
it was over a very limited area.

We had a swim in the fine rocky tarn, and we were delighted to be
joined by Gibson in our ablutions. Could the bottom of this pool be
cleared of the loose blocks of stone, gravel, and sand, it would
doubtless be found of very great depth; but the rains and floods of
ages have nearly filled it with stones, loosened from the upper rocks,
and it is only in the crevices between the rocks at the bottom that
one can discover the depth to be greater than seven feet. Shade here
is very scarce when the sun is overhead, except up around the large
basin, where there are caves and overhanging rocky ledges, under which
we sit, and over which the splashing waters from their sources above
fall into the tarn below.

The view from the top of the range was very similar to that from Mount
Buttfield, only that now to the south we could see an horizon of
scrub. To the north, the natives were burning the spinifex, and this
produced such a haze that no definite view could be obtained. Other
portions of the range quite prevented a western view. The altitude of
this summit was a little over 3000 feet above sea level.

Not being able to glean any farther information about the surrounding
country, we (con)descended to work in the shady caves, swimming and
working alternately during the day, for we had plenty of the
ever-recurring tasks to do, namely, the repairing of pack-bags and
clothes, and the unravelling of canvas for twine.

The first night we passed here was close and hot. We had so much of
sewing to do that we set to work with a will; our clothes also require
as much attention as the pack-bags and pack-saddles. No one could
conceive the amount of tearing and patching that is for ever going on;
could either a friend or stranger see us in our present garb, our
appearance would scarcely be thought even picturesque; for a more
patched and ragged set of tatterdemalions it would be difficult to
find upon the face of the earth. We are not, indeed, actually
destitute of clothes, but, saving our best for future emergencies, we
keep continually patching our worst garments, hence our peculiar
appearance, as our hats, shirts, and trousers, are here and there, so
quilted with bits of old cloth, canvas, calico, basil, greenhide, and
old blanket, that the original garment is scarcely anywhere visible.
In the matter of boots the traveller must be able to shoe himself as
well as his horses in these wild regions of the west. The explorer
indeed should be possessed of a good few accomplishments--amongst
these I may enumerate that he should be able to make a pie, shoe
himself or his horse, jerk a doggerel verse or two, not for himself,
but simply for the benefit or annoyance of others, and not necessarily
for publication, nor as a guarantee of good faith; he must be able to
take, and make, an observation now and again, mend a watch, kill or
cure a horse as the times may require, make a pack-saddle, and
understand something of astronomy, surveying, geography, geology, and
mineralogy, et hoc, simile huic.

With regard to shoeing oneself, I will give my reader some idea of
what strength is required for boots in this country. I repaired mine
at Fort Mueller with a double sole of thick leather, with sixty
horseshoe nails to each boot, all beautifully clenched within, giving
them a soft and Turkish carpet-like feeling to the feet inside; then,
with an elegant corona of nail-heads round the heel and plates at the
toes, they are perfect dreadnoughts, and with such understandings I
can tread upon a mountain with something like firmness, but they were
nearly the death of me afterwards for all that.

In the shade of our caves here the thermometer does not rise very
high, but in the external glen, where we sleep in the open air, it is
no cooler.

On the 29th we left this cool and shady spot--cool and shady, however,
only amongst the caves--and continued our march still westward, along
the slopes of the range.

In eight miles we crossed ten creeks issuing from glens or gorges in
the range; all that I inspected had rocky basins, with more or less
water in them. Other creeks were seen ahead, but no view could be got
of any horizon to the west; only the northern and eastern ones being
open to our view. The country surrounding the range to the north
appeared to consist of open red sandhills, with casuarina in the
hollows between. At sixteen miles I found a large rocky tarn in a
creek-gorge; but little or no grass for the horses--indeed, the whole
country at the foot of this range is very bare of that commodity,
except at Sladen Water, where it is excellent.

Since we left Sladen Water the horses have not done well, and the
slopes of this range being so rough and stony, many of them display
signs of sorefootedness. I cannot expect the range to continue farther
than another day's stage; and though I cannot see its end, yet I feel
'tis near.

Many delays by visiting places caused it to be very late when we sat
down amongst stones and triodia to devour our frugal supper. A
solitary eagle was the monarch of this scene; it was perched upon the
highest peak of a bare ridge, and formed a feathery sky-line when
looking up the gorge--always there sat the solemn, solitary, and
silent bird, like the Lorelei on her rock-- above--beautifully, there,
as though he had a mission to watch the course of passing events, and
to record them in the books of time and fate. There was a larger and
semicircular basin still farther up the gorge; this I called the
Circus, but this creek and our rock-hole ever after went by the name
of the Circus. In a few miles the next day I could see the termination
of the range. In nine miles we crossed three creeks, then ascended a
hill north of us, and obtained at last a western view. It consisted
entirely of high, red sandhills with casuarinas and low mallee, which
formed the horizon at about ten miles. The long range that had brought
us so far to the west was at an end; it had fallen off slightly in
altitude towards its western extremity, and a deep bed of rolling
sandhill country, covered with desert vegetation, surrounded it on all
sides. Nearer to us, north-westerly, and stretching nearly to west,
lay the dry, irregular, and broken expanse of an ancient lake bed. On
riding over to it we found it very undefined, as patches of sandhills
occurred amongst low ridges of limestone, with bushes and a few low
trees all over the expanse. There were patches of dry, soda-like
particles, and the soil generally was a loose dust coloured earth.
Samphire bushes also grew in patches upon it, and some patches of our
arch-enemy, triodia. Great numbers of wallaby, a different kind from
the rock, were seen amongst the limestone rises; they had completely
honeycombed all we inspected. Water there was none, and if Noah's
deluge visited this place it could be conveniently stowed away, and
put out of sight in a quarter of an hour.

Returning to the horses, we turned southerly to the most westerly
creek that issues from the range. I found some water up at the head of
it in rock-holes; but it was so far up easterly, that we could not
have been more than five or six miles across the hills from our last
night's encampment at the Circus. There was only a poor supply of
water in two small holes, which could not last longer than three days
at the most. The thermometer ranged up to 104 degrees to-day. Some of
the horses are now terribly footsore. I would shoe them, only that we
are likely to be in the sandhills again immediately. I did not exactly
know which way to go. Mr. Tietkens and I ascended the highest hill in
this part of the range. I had yesterday seen something like the top of
a ridge south-westerly; I now found it was part of a low distant
range, and not of a very promising nature. There was a conspicuous
mountain, which now bore north-east about fifty miles away, and I
fancied I saw the refracted tops of other ranges floating in the
mirage. I thought, from the mountain just mentioned, I might discover
others, which might lead me away to the west. Up to the present time
we had always called this, in consequence of its bearing when first
seen, the North-west Mountain. I thought a change of country might be
met with sooner in a north or north-westerly direction than in a west
or south-westerly one, as the sources of the Murchison River must be
met somewhere in the former direction. I tried the boiling-point of
water here, and found that the ebullition occurred at two degrees
higher than at the Alice Falls, which indicated a fall of nearly 1000
feet, the western end of the range being much lower than the middle or
eastern. We had still a couple of bottles of spirit left in the
medical department, and as nobody seemed inclined to get ill, we
opened one here. Jimmy Andrews having been a sailor boy, I am afraid
had learnt bad habits, as he was very fond of grog. When we opened the
last bottle at Christmas, and Jimmy had had a taste, he said, "What's
the use of only a nobbler or two? I wouldn't give a d--," dump, I
suppose he meant, "for grog unless I could get drunk." I said, "Well,
now, my impression is that it would require very little grog to do
that." He said, "Why, I'd drink six bottles off and never know it." I
said, "Well, the next bottle we open you shall have as much out of it
as you can take in one drink, even if you drink the whole bottle." He
replied, "Oh, all right, I'll leave a nobbler for you, you know, Mr.
Giles; and I'd like to give Tietkens a taste; but that [adjective]
Gibson, I'll swear he won't git none." So we opened the bottle, and I
said, "Now then, Jimmy, here's your grog, let's see how much you can
drink." "Oh!" said he," I ain't going to drink it all at once." "All
right," I said, "if you don't, we shall--so now is your chance." Jimmy
poured out a good stiff glass and persisted in swallowing it raw. In
five minutes he was fast asleep, and that was all he got out of the
bottle; he never woke till morning, and then--well, the bottle was
empty then.

My readers will form a better idea of this peculiar and distant
mountain range when I tell them that it is more than sixty miles long,
averaging five or six miles through. It is of a bold and rounded form;
there is nothing pointed or jagged in its appearance anywhere, except
where the eagle sat upon the rock at the Circus; its formation is
mostly a white conglomerate, something between granite, marble, and
quartz, though some portions are red. It is surrounded, except to the
east, by deserts, and may be called the monarch of those regions where
the unvisited mountains stand. It possesses countless rocky glens and
gorges, creeks and valleys, nearly all containing reservoirs of the
purest water. When the Australian summer sunset smooths the roughness
of the corrugated range, like a vast and crumpled garment, spread by
the great Creator's hand, east and west before me stretching, these
eternal mountains stand. It is a singular feature in a strange land,
and God knows by what beady drops of toilsome sweat Tietkens and I
rescued it from its former and ancient oblivion. Its position in
latitude is between the 24th and 25th parallels, and its longitude
between 127 degrees 30' and 128 degrees 30'. I named it the Rawlinson
Range, after Sir Henry Rawlinson, President of the Royal Geographical
Society of London. I found a singular moth- and fly-catching, plant in
this range; it exudes a gummy substance, by which insects become
attached to the leaves. The appearance of this range from a distance
is white, flat, corrugated, rounded, and treeless. It rises between
1100 and 1200 feet in its highest portions, about the centre, in the
neighbourhood of Fort McKellar, above the surrounding country, though
its greatest elevation above the sea is over 3000 feet.

On the 1st of February, after a very hot night, we made a late start
for the North-west Mountain, which now bore nearly north-east. It took
some miles to get clear of the stones of the range, the appearance of
the new feature we were steering for being most inviting. Its
corrugated front proclaimed the existence of ravines and gorges, while
a more open valley ran between it and some lower hills immediately to
the west of it.

The horses were so delighted to get off the stones, that they
travelled uncommonly fast, and we got over twenty-eight miles by
night, though the country was exceedingly heavy travelling, being all
high, red sandhills, and until near the end of our day's stage we
could scarcely ever see the mountain at all. We encamped without
water, but I expected to get some early next day at the mountain. Two
of the horses lay down at the camp all night, being thirsty, tired,
and footsore; there was no grass for them. The thermometer to-day
indicated 108 degrees in the shade. A great number of the horses, from
being footsore, were lying down this morning, and when mustered they
all looked excessively hollow and thirsty. If no water be found at
this mountain, how many of them will be alive in a couple of days?
Yesterday we made twenty-eight, and to-day at twenty-three, miles we
reached the foot of the mount. There was an inviting valley, up which
we took the horses a mile. Then, leaving Gibson and Jimmy to await our
return, Mr. Tietkens and I rode away in search of water. It was
evident that only a trifling shower, if any, had visited this range,
for not a drop of water could be found, nor any rock reservoirs where
it might lodge. We parted company, and searched separately, but when
we met again we could only report to each other our non-success. It
was now past two o'clock, our horses had been ridden somewhat fast
over the most horrible and desolate stony places, where no water is,
and they were now in a very exhausted state, especially Mr.

There were yet one or two ravines in the southern face of the range,
and while I ascended the mountain, Mr. Tietkens and the others took
the horses round that way and searched. From the summit of this
sterile mount I had expected at least a favourable view, but to my
intense disappointment nothing of the kind was to be seen. Two little
hills only, bearing 20 and 14 degrees west of north, were the sole
objects higher than the general horizon; the latter was formed
entirely of high, red sandhills, with casuarina between. To the east
only was a peaked and jagged range, which I called Mount Robert, after
my brother; all the rest was a bed of undulating red sand. What was to
be hoped from a region such as this? Could water exist in it? It was
scarcely possible. For an independent watercourse I could not hope,
because in the many hundreds of miles westward from the telegraph line
which we had travelled, no creek had been met, except in the immediate
vicinity of ranges, and not a drop of water, so to speak, had I
obtained away from these. I was upon the point of naming this Mount
Disappointment, it looked so inviting from a distance, and yet I could
find no water; and if none here, what possibility could there be of
getting any in the midst of the dense bed of sandhills beyond? I did
not test the boiling-point of water, for I had none to boil, but the
elevation was about 1100 feet above the surrounding country. From a
distance this mount has a very cheering and imposing appearance, and I
would have gone to it from almost any distance, with a full belief in
its having water about it. But if, indeed, the inland mountain has
really voice and sound, what I could gather from the sighings of the
light zephyrs that fanned my heated brow, as I stood gazing hopelessly
from this summit, was anything but a friendly greeting, it was rather
a warning that called me away; and I fancied I could hear a voice
repeating, Let the rash wand'rer here beware; Heaven makes not
travellers its peculiar care.

Descending now, I joined the others at the foot of the hill, when Mr.
Tietkens and Gibson informed me they had searched everywhere, but in
vain. The horses were huddled together in the shade of a thicket,
three or four of them lying down with their packs on, and all looking
the pictures of wretchedness and woe. It was now past four o'clock,
and there was no alternative but to retreat.

The Gorge of Tarns, thirty miles away, about south-south-west, was the
nearest water, but between us and it was another low range with a kind
of saddle or break in the middle. I wished, if possible, to get over
this before night, so we turned the horses' heads in that direction.
One fine horse called Diamond seemed suffering more than the rest. Mr.
Tietkens's riding-horse, a small blue roan, a very game little animal
that had always carried him well, albeit not too well treated, was
also very bad, and two others were very troublesome to drive along.
The saddle in the low range was a most difficult and stony pass; so
dreadfully rough and scrubby was it, I was afraid that night would
descend upon us before we could reach the southern side. Mr.
Tietkens's Bluey gave in here, and fell heavily down a stony slope
into a dense thicket of scrub; we had the greatest difficulty in
getting him out, and it was only by rolling him over the stones and
down the remainder of the slope, for he could not stand, that we got
him to the bottom. He was severely cut and bruised in the descent. We
just managed to get clear of the stones by dark, and unpacked the
exhausted animals, which had been travelling almost ever since
daylight. We had no water except a mouthful for the little dog. The
thermometer stood at 108 degrees, ourselves and our horses were
choking for water.

In the morning several of the horses were lying dying about the camp;
Bluey, Diamond, a little cob--mate or brother of the one killed on
Elder's Creek--and one or two more, while those that were able had
wandered away. Though we were up and after them at three in the
morning, it was ten before I could despatch Mr. Tietkens and Jimmy
with the main mob. Poor little Bluey died soon after sunrise. Gibson
was after the absent horses, which he brought at length, and we packed
up and went after the others. Gibson's usual riding-horse, Trew, was
very bad, and quite unable to carry him. Mr. Tietkens was now riding
an old horse which I had purchased in Victoria, and had owned for some
time; he was called Widge. I had him out on my former expedition. He
was a cool, calculating villain, that no ordinary work could kill, and
he was as lively as a cricket when Mr. Tietkens rode him away; he
usually carried a pack. Jimmy carried the little dog Cocky, now nearly
dead from thirst and heat, though we had given him the last drop of
water we possessed. Dogs, birds, and large beasts in Australia often
die of heat, within sight of water. Jimmy was mounted on a gray-hipped
horse, which was also out on my former trip; he carried his rider well
to the end. Gibson I had mounted on a young bay mare, a creature as
good as they make them; she was as merry and gay, as it is possible
for any of her sex, even of the human kind, to be. Her proper name was
the Fair Maid of Perth; but somehow, from her lively, troublesome, and
wanton vagaries, they called her the Sow-Cow. My own riding-horse, a
small, sleek, cunning little bay, a fine hack with excellent paces,
called W.A., I also had out previously. He would pull on his bridle
all day long to eat, he would even pretend to eat spinifex; he was now
very bad and footsore. Gibson and I overtook Mr. Tietkens and Jimmy,
and we pushed on as fast as we could, the distance we had now to go,
not being more than ten or eleven miles. The sandhills were
exceedingly high and severe, but all the horses got over the last one.

We were now in full view of the range, with the Gorge of Tarns not
more than five miles away. But here Diamond and another, Pratt, that I
had out by myself at the stinking pit in November, fell, never to
rise. We took off their packs and left them on the ground. The
thermometer then stood at 106 degrees in the shade. We pushed on,
intending to return immediately with water to the relief of these
unfortunates. The pack-horses now presented a demoralised and
disorganised rout, travelling in a long single file, for it was quite
impossible to keep the tail up with the leaders. I shall try to give
my reader some slight idea of them, if description is sufficiently
palpable to do so. The real leader was an old black mare, blear-eyed
from fly-wounds, for ever dropping tears of salt rheum, fat, large,
strong, having carried her 180 pounds at starting, and now desperately
thirsty and determined, knowing to an inch where the water was; on she
went, reaching the stony slopes about two miles from the water. Next
came a rather herring-gutted, lanky bay horse, which having been
bought at the Peake, I called Peveril; he was generally poor, but
always able, if not willing, for his work. Then came a big bay cob,
and an old flea-bitten gray called Buggs, that got bogged in the
Stemodia viscosa Creek, and a nuggetty-black harness-horse called
Darkie, always very fat. These last three carried 200 pounds each at
starting. Then Banks, the best saddle-horse I have, and which I had
worked too much in dry trips before reaching this range; he was very
much out of sorts and footsore. Then an iron-grey colt, called Diaway,
having been very poor and miserable when first purchased, but he was a
splendid horse. Then came the sideways-going old crab, Terrible Billy.
He was always getting into the most absurd predicaments--poor old
creature; got down our throats at last!--falling into holes, and up
and down slopes, going at them sideways, without the slightest
confidence in himself, or apparent fear of consequences; but the old
thing always did his work well enough. Blackie next, a handsome young
colt with a white stripe down his face, and very fast; and Formby, a
bay that had done excellent harness-work with Diamond on the road to
the Peake; he was a great weight-carrier. The next was Hollow Back,
who had once been a fine-paced and good jumping horse, but now only
fit for packing; he was very well bred and very game. The next was
Giant Despair, a perfect marvel. He was a chestnut, old, large-framed,
gaunt, and bony, with screwed and lately staked feet. Life for him
seemed but one unceasing round of toil, but he was made of iron; no
distance and no weight was too much for him. He sauntered along after
the leaders, looking not a whit the worse than when he left the last
water, going neither faster nor slower than his wont. He was
dreadfully destructive with his pack-bags, for he would never get out
of the road for anything less than a gum-tree. Tommy and Badger, two
of my former expedition horses; Tommy and Hippy I bought a second time
from Carmichael, when coming up to the Peake. Tommy was poor, old, and
footsore, the most wonderful horse for his size in harness I ever saw.
Badger, his mate, was a big ambling cob, able to carry a ton, but the
greatest slug of a horse, I ever came across; he seems absolutely to
require flogging as a tonic; he must be flogged out of camp, and
flogged into it again, mile after mile, day after day, from water and
to it. He was now, as usual, at the tail of the straggling mob, except
Gibson's former riding-horse called Trew. He was an excellent little
horse, but now so terribly footsore he could scarcely drag himself
along; he was one of six best of the lot. If I put them in their order
I should say, Banks, the Fair Maid of Perth, Trew, Guts (W.A.),
Diaway, Blackie and Darkie, Widge, the big cob Buggs--the flea-bitten
grey--Bluey, Badger, who was a fine ambling saddle-horse, and Tommy;
the rest might range anyhow. The last horse of all was the poor little
shadow of a cob, the harness-mate of the one killed at Elder's Creek.
On reaching the stones this poor little ghost fell, never again to
rise. We could give him no relief, we had to push on. Guts gave in on
the stones; I let him go and walked to the water. I need scarcely say
how thirsty we all were. On reaching the water, and wasting no time,
Mr. Tietkens and I returned to the three fallen horses, taking with us
a supply of water, and using the Fair Maid, Widge, Formby, and Darkie;
we went as fast as the horses could go. On reaching the little cob we
found him stark and stiff, his hide all shrivelled and wrinkled, mouth
wide open, and lips drawn back to an extraordinary extent. Pushing on
we arrived where Diamond and Pratt had fallen. They also were quite
dead, and must have died immediately after they fell; they presented
the same appearance as the little cob. Thus my visit to the North-west
Mountain had cost the lives of four horses, Bluey, Diamond, Pratt, and
the cob. The distance they had to travel was not great--less than
ninety miles--and they were only two nights without water; but the
heat was intense, the country frightful, and to get over the distance
as soon as possible, we may have travelled rather fast. The horses had
not been well off for either grass or water at starting, and they were
mostly footsore; but in the best of cases, and under the most
favourable start from a water, the ephemeral thread of a horse's life
may be snapped in a moment, in the height of an Australian summer, in
such a region as this, where that detestable vegetation, the triodia,
and high and rolling sandhills exist for such enormous distances. The
very sight of the country, in all its hideous terrors clad, is
sufficient to daunt a man and kill a horse. I called the vile mountain
which had caused me this disaster, Mount Destruction, for a visit to
it had destroyed alike my horses and my hopes. I named the range of
which it is the highest point, Carnarvon Range.

We returned again to the Gorge of Tarns, as Mr. Tietkens very tritely
remarked, sadder but wiser men. Our position here is by no means
enviable, for although there is plenty of permanent water in this
range, it appears to be surrounded by such extensive deserts that
advance or retreat is equally difficult, as now I had no water in
tanks or otherwise between this and Fort Mueller, and not a horse
might ever reach that goal. I am again seated under the splashing
fountain that falls from the rocks above, sheltered by the sunless
caverns of this Gorge of Tarns, with a limpid liquid basin of the
purest water at my feet, sheltered from the heated atmosphere which
almost melts the rocks and sand of the country surrounding us--sitting
as I may well declare in the shadow of a great rock in a weary land,
but we cannot shut out from the mind the perils we have endured, the
perils we may yet have to endure. For the present our wants and those
of our gallant horses are supplied, but to the traveller in such a
wilderness, when he once turns his back upon a water, the
ever-recurring question presents itself, of when and where shall I
obtain more? The explorer is necessarily insatiable for water; no
quantity can satisfy him, for he requires it always and in every
place. Life for water he will at any moment give, for water cannot be
done without. Thermometer in outer shade 106 degrees; in the caverns
98 degrees.

We shall have to remain here for a few days. The bare rocks in this
glen and the walls of stone that form it become so heated during the
day that the nights passed in it are most oppressive. The rocks have
not time to cool before the sun is upon them again, and at evening,
when descending from the caves, we find the thermometer actually rises
in the night air. In the caves during to-day it was 98 degrees, and at
eight o'clock at night outside it was 101 degrees. We are pestered
here terribly by flies, but not plagued by either ants or mosquitoes.
This evening Gibson and Jimmy shot three wallabies. This range swarms
also with pigeons in every gorge and glen, and they come in clouds at
night and morning for water. Unfortunately nearly all our sporting
ammunition is gone, though I have a good supply of defensive. To-day
the thermometer in the caves was only 88 degrees while in the outside
shade 104 degrees, the cause being hot winds from the south-east.
While here we shod the most tender-footed of our horses. There was a
good deal of thunder and lightning. The daytime in this gorge is less
oppressive than the night. The sun does not appear over the eastern
hills until nearly nine o'clock, and it passes behind the western ones
at about 4.15 p.m. The horses cannot recover well here, the ground
being too stony, and the grass and herbage too poor; therefore I shall
retreat to the Pass of the Abencerrages and the pleasant encampment of
Sladen Water. One horse, Tommy, was still very bad, and had to be left
on the road, not from want of water, but old age and exhaustion. I
sent for him the next day, and he rejoined the mob. We got back on the
12th of February; there was a fine lot of ducks when we arrived, but
those sportsmen Gibson and Jimmy went blazing away as usual without
getting one, wasting the powder and shot, which has now become such a
scarcity, and losing and making the ducks wild into the bargain. The
birds were so frightened that they split into several mobs, and only
one mob of eight remained at the pass. I wanted to get these, and went
to some trouble to do so. I first walked away and got a horse, and
riding him bare-backed I drove the ducks quietly down to the camp
water-hole, but the moment they arrived, I being behind with the
horse, Gibson and Jimmy must needs go blazing away at them again,
although they knew they could never hit any of them; and just as I
arrived I heard the report and saw all the ducks come flying overhead
up the pass. They went up therefore through the regions of the air
singing sweetly as they went, but I did not sing so sweetly on the
occasion. Then ensued quite a scientific little ornithological lecture
on my part, referring mostly to the order of ducks, and the species
known as wild ones more particularly, and I explained the subject to
them in such a plain and forcible manner that both of them admitted
they quite understood what I was talking about, which is a great
matter for lecturers to consider, because if, after a forcible
harangue, a speaker's audience is in any way mystified, or not in
touch with him as to the meaning of his remarks, why, then, his time
and labour are both lost; therefore I purposely refrained from any
ambiguity, and delivered my figures of speech and rounded periods in
words suitable for the most ordinary comprehension, and I really think
it had a good effect on both of them. Of course I addressed them more
in sorrow than in anger, although the loss of eight ducks was a
frightfully heavy one to all of us; but I was partially consoled with
the thought that they would have to bear their share of the loss. A
few hours afterwards I went after the ducks again, and by good fortune
bagged six in one shot; one got away in the bushes, and the other flew
away; and he seemed to me to have a very crooked flew at that. These
were the fattest birds I ever ate. We had a fine supper of ducks,
their flavour being sup(p)er-excellent.



The ants were terribly troublesome at this waterhole, although we
slept on the damp sand; so we shifted the camp up to the sweet
water-hole, and selected as open a piece of ground as possible, as I
intended the camp to remain here for a week or two. More thunder and
lightning, with great heat and a few drops of rain. Thermometer, 106
degrees. There were countless numbers of the little cockatoo parrots
here; they are very shy, and even when Gibson or Jimmy lets off a gun
at them, a dozen or two are sure to fall; it takes some time, however,
before another shot can be had at them. I fancy they are migrating.
The pigeons swarm at night to water. I intend to visit the ridges
which I mentioned as lying to the south-west, from the west end of
this range. We shod the old black mare, Diaway, and old Buggs, to take
with us. The 18th of February, 1874, was like to have proved a most
eventful day in my life, for it was very nearly the termination of it.
I was riding Diaway, the colt just shod; he is seldom ridden, though a
very fine hack, as he is such a splendid weight-carrier as a
packhorse; he is rather skittish, and if anything goes wrong with his
pack, he'll put it right (on the ground) almost instantaneously. I was
driving all the horses up to the camp, when one broke from the mob,
and galloped across the creek. There was a bank of stones about three
feet high, which was hidden by a growth of rushes; Diaway went
bounding over the great bushes and inequalities of the channel, and
reached the bank without seeing it, until too late, when he made a
bound at, but fell on the top of, it, rolling over upon me at the same
time. He scrambled up, but left me on the broad of my back. On my feet
were those wonderful boots before described, with the sixty horseshoe
nails in each, and it was no wonder that one of my feet got caught in
the stirrup on the off side of the horse. It is one of the most
horrible positions that the mind can well imagine, to contemplate
being dragged by a horse. I have been dragged before now, and only
escaped by miracles on each occasion. In this case, Diaway, finding me
attached to him, commenced to lash out his newly shod heels at me,
bounding away at the same time into a dense thicket of scrub close by.
Mr. Tietkens and the others seeing the accident came running up
behind, as Diaway and I were departing. Fortunately I was not dragged
far, but was literally kicked free from and by, the frightened and
uncontrolled animal. The continual kickings I received--some on my
legs and body, but mostly upon that portion of the frame which it is
considered equally indecorous to present either to a friend or an
enemy--at length bent one or two of the nail-heads which held me, and,
tearing the upper leather off my boot, which fortunately was old,
ripped it off, leaving me at length free. As I lay on my excoriated
back, I saw Diaway depart without me into the scrub, with feelings of
the most profound delight, although my transports were considerably
lessened by the agonising sensations I experienced. Mr. Tietkens
helped me to hobble over to the camp in a most disorganised state,
though thanking Providence for so fortunate an escape. Had Diaway but
entered the scrub not two yards from where I was released, I could not
have existed more than a minute. The following day Mr. Tietkens was
getting everything ready to go with me to the south-west ridges,
though I had great doubts of my ability to ride, when we became aware
of the presence of a whole host of natives immediately below the camp.
All the morning the little dog had been strangely perturbed, and we
knew by the natives' fires that they were in our immediate
neighbourhood. There was so much long grass and tall rushes in the
creek bed, that they could approach very close before we could
possibly see them. So soon as they found themselves detected, as usual
they set up the most horrible yells, and, running up on the open
ground, sent a flight of spears at us before a rifle or a gun could be
seized, and we had to jump behind a large bush, that I left standing
on purpose, to escape. Our stand of arms was there, and we immediately
seized them, sending the bullets flying just above their heads and at
their feet. The report of the weapons and the whirring sound of the
swiftly passing shots made them pause, and they began an harangue,
ordering us out of their territories, to the south. Seeing us,
however, motionless and silent, their courage returned, and again they
advanced, uttering their war cries with renewed energy. Again the
spears would have been amongst us; but I, not relishing even the idea
of barbed spears being stuck through my body, determined not to permit
either my own or any of my party's lives to be lost for the sake of
not discharging my firearms. Consequently we at length succeeded in
causing a rout, and driving the enemy away. There were a great number
of natives in the bushes, besides those who attacked us. There were
not many oldish men among them, only one with grey hair. I am reminded
here to mention that in none of my travels in these western wilds have
I found any places of sepulture of any kind. The graves are not
consumed by the continual fires that the natives keep up in their
huntings, for that would likewise be the fate of their old and
deserted gunyahs, which we meet with frequently, and which are neither
all nor half destroyed. Even if the natives put no boughs or sticks
upon their graves, we must see some mounds or signs of burial-places,
if not of bones or skulls. My opinion is, that these people eat their
aged ones, and most probably those who die from natural causes also.

It was a cool, breezy day, and, in consequence of the hostile action
of the natives, I did not depart on the south-west excursion. I was
not sorry to delay my departure, for I was in great pain all over. I
now decided to leave Mr. Tietkens and take Jimmy with me. I cannot say
I anticipate making any valuable discovery on this trip; for had there
been ranges of any elevation to the westward, or beyond the ridges in
question, I should in all probability have seen them from the end of
this range, and should have visited them in preference to Mount
Destruction. I felt it incumbent on me to visit them, however, as from
them I might obtain a view of some encouraging features beyond.


Journey south-west.
Glens and springs.
Rough watering-place.
A marble bath.
Glassy rocks.
Swarms of ants.
Solitary tree.
An oven.
Terrible night.
And day.
Wretched appearance of the horses.
Mountains of sand.
Hopeless view.
In great pain.
Horses in agony.
Difficulty in watering them.
Another night of misery.
Dante's Inferno.
The waters of oblivion.
Return to the pass.
Dinner of carrion.
A smoke-house.
Tour to the east.
Singular pinnacle.
Eastern ranges.
A gum creek.
Basins of water.
Natives all around.
Horrid rites.
A chip off the old block.
A wayside inn.
Gordon's Springs.

Taking Jimmy and three horses, we travelled, after clearing the pass,
on the south slopes of the range westward, crossing several small
creek-channels, which might or might not have waters in them. At
twelve miles we came to a green-looking channel and found water,
running so far down as a rocky hole, near where we crossed. We
outspanned here for an hour, as I found riding very severe toil after
my late kicking. I named this secluded but pretty little spot, Glen
Helen. It was very rough travelling ground--worse than on the northern
side of the range. Three miles farther, we crossed another running
water, and called it Edith Hull's Springs. At ten miles farther, after
crossing several channels, we turned up one, and got some water in a
very rough and stony gorge off the main channel, which was dry. There
was very poor feed, but we were compelled to remain, as there was no
other creek in sight for some miles, and the horses, although shod,
could only travel slowly over the terribly rough ground. When we
turned them out, they preferred to stand still, rather than roam about
among the rocks and boulders for food. The day was cool; the southern
horizon, the only one we could see, was bounded entirely by red
sandhills and casuarina timber. The horses ate nothing all night, and
stood almost where they were hobbled.

In this region, and in the heat of summer, the moment horses, no
matter how fat and fresh they may be, are taken away from their
companions to face the fearful country that they know is before them,
they begin to fret and fall away visibly. They will scarcely eat, and
get all the weaker in consequence, and then they require twice as much
water as they otherwise would if their insides were partly filled with
grass. When I released our three from the hobbles this morning, they
immediately pretended to feed; but this old ruse has been experienced
before, and time was now up, to move on again. They were very thirsty,
and nearly emptied the rock basin, where we had a kind of bath before
starting. Along the foot-hills over which we were obliged to travel,
the country was much rougher than yesterday; so much so, that I kept
away as much as possible. At twenty miles we turned up a
creek-channel, which proved to be a dreadful gorge, being choked up
with huge boulders of red and white granite. Among these I found a
fine rock tarn; indeed, I might call it a marble bath, for the rock
was almost pure white, and perfectly bare all round. The water was
considerably over our heads, and felt as cold as ice. It was a
dreadful place to get horses up to, and two of them fell two or three
times on the glassy, shelving, and slippery rocks. The old grey,
Buggs, hurt himself a good deal.

Time seems to fly in these places, except when you want it to do so,
and by the time the horses got down from the water the day was nearly
gone. The feed for them was very little better than at our last
night's camp, nor was the glen any less stony or rough. The day was 12
degrees hotter than yesterday; the thermometer indicated 104 degrees.
The ants in this glen were frightful; they would not allow me a
moment's rest anywhere. There was but one solitary eucalyptus or
gum-tree, and in its scanty shade they swarmed in countless myriads.
The sun poured his fiery beams full down upon us, and it was not until
he departed over the cliffs to the west that we had a moment's
respite; the place was a perfect oven.

I passed the time mostly in the marble bath, and then took a walk up
to the top of the range and could see the hills I desired to visit;
they now bore nearly south-west. So long as the sun's rays were
pouring down upon their unsheltered hides, the horses would not
attempt to eat, but when he departed they fed a little on the coarse
vegetation. This glen, like all the others in this range, swarmed with
pigeons, and we got enough for breakfast at one shot. During the hot
months, I believe whites could live entirely on pigeons in this range.
At the camp at Sladen Water they came to the water in clouds, their
very numbers sometimes preventing us getting a good shot, and we had
been living entirely on them, for now we had no other meat.
Unfortunately, our ammunition is almost exhausted, but so long as it
lasts we shall have birds. When it is gone we must eat horseflesh, and
should have been driven to do so before now, only for these birds. I
have an old horse now fattening for the knife, and I am sorry, i.e.
happy, to say, whenever I inspect him he looks better. The one I mean
is the old sideways-going Terrible Billy. Poor old creature! To work
so many years as he has done for man, and then to be eaten at last,
seems a hard fate; but who or what can escape that inexorable shadow,

It may be the destiny of some of ourselves to be eaten; for I fully
believe the natives of these regions look upon all living organisms as
grist for their insatiable mills. As night came on, I was compelled to
lie down at last, but was so bitten and annoyed by the ants, that I
had to keep moving about from place to place the whole night long,
while the [in]sensible Jimmy lay sleeping and snoring, though swarmed
over and almost carried away by the ants, as peacefully as though he
had gone to rest under the canopy of costly state, and lulled with
sounds of sweetest melody. I could not help moralising, as I often
stood near him, wondering at his peace and placidity, upon the
differences of our mental and physical conditions: here was one human
being, young and strong, certainly, sleeping away the, to me, dreary
hours of night, regaining that necessary vigour for the toils of the
coming day, totally oblivious of swarms of creeping insects, that not
only crawled all over him, but constantly bit into his flesh; while
another, who prided himself perhaps too much upon the mental powers
bestowed by God upon him, was compelled by the same insects to wander
through the whole night, from rock to rock and place to place, unable
to remain for more than a moment or two anywhere; and to whom sleep,
under such circumstances, was an utter impossibility. Not, indeed,
that the loss of sleep troubles me, for if any one could claim to be
called the sleepless one, it would be I--that is to say, when engaged
in these arduous explorations, and curtained by night and the stars;
but, although I can do without sleep, I require a certain amount of
horizontal repose, and this I could not obtain in this fearful glen.
It was, therefore, with extreme pleasure that I beheld the dawn,

"To the eastward where, cluster by cluster,
Dim stars and dull planets that muster,
Waxing wan in a world of white lustre,
That spread far and high."

No human being could have been more pleased than I at the appearance
of another day, although I was yet doomed to several hours more misery
in this dreadful gorge. The pigeons shot last night were covered
within and without by ants, although they had been put in a bag. The
horses looked wretched, even after watering, and I saw that it was
actually necessary to give them a day's rest before I ventured with
them into the frightful sandhills which I could see intervened between
us and the distant ridges. Truly the hours I spent in this hideous
gorge were hours of torture; the sun roasted us, for there was no
shade whatever to creep into; the rocks and stones were so heated that
we could neither touch, nor sit upon them, and the ants were more
tormenting than ever. I almost cried aloud for the mountains to fall
upon me, and the rocks to cover me. I passed several hours in the
marble bath, the only place the ants could not encroach upon, though
they swarmed round the edge of the water. But in the water itself were
numerous little fiendish water-beetles, and these creatures bit one
almost as badly as the ants. In the bath I remained until I was almost
benumbed by the cold. Then the sunshine and the heat in the gorge
would seem delightful for a few minutes, till I became baked with heat
again. The thermometer stood at 106 degrees in the shade of the only
tree. At three p.m. the horses came up to water. I was so horrified
with the place I could no longer remain, though Jimmy sat, and
probably slept, in the scanty one tree's shade, and seemed to pass the
time as comfortably as though he were in a fine house. In going up to
the water two of the horses again fell and hurt themselves, but the
old blear-eyed mare never slipped or fell. At four p.m. we mounted,
and rode down the glen until we got clear of the rough hills, when we
turned upon our proper course for the ridges, which, however, we could
not see. In two or three miles we entered the sandhill regions once
more, when it soon rose into hills. The triodia was as thick and
strong as it could grow. The country was not, so to say, scrubby,
there being only low bushes and scrubs on the sandhills, and casuarina
trees of beautiful outline and appearance in the hollows. When the
horses got clear of the stones they began to eat everything they could
snatch and bite at.

At fifteen miles from the gorge we encamped on a patch of dry grass.
The horses fed pretty well for a time, until the old mare began to
think it time to be off, and she soon would have led the others back
to the range. She dreaded this country, and knew well by experience
and instinct what agony was in store for her. Jimmy got them back and
short-hobbled them. There were plenty of ants here, but nothing to be
compared to the number in the gorge, and having to remove my blankets
only three or four times, I had a most delightful night's rest,
although, of course, I did not sleep. The horses were sulky and would
not eat; therefore they looked as hollow as drums, and totally unfit
to traverse the ground that was before them. However, this had to be
done, or at least attempted, and we got away early. We were in the
midst of the sandhills, and here they rose almost into mountains of
sand. It was most fatiguing to the horses, the thermometer 104 degrees
in the shade when we rested at twenty-two miles. Nor was this the
hottest time of the day. We had been plunging through the sand
mountains, and had not sighted the ridges, for thirty-seven miles,
till at length we found the nearest were pretty close to us. They
seemed very low, and quite unlikely to produce water. Reaching the
first, we ascended it, and I could see at a glance that any prospect
of finding water was utterly hopeless, as these low ridges, which ran
north and south, were merely a few oblique-lying layers of upheaved
granite, not much higher than the sandhills which surrounded them, and
there was no place where water could lodge even during rains. Not a
rise could be seen in any direction, except, of course, from where we
had come. We went on west five or six miles farther to the end of
these, just about sundown: and long, indeed, will that peculiar sunset
rest in my recollection. The sun as usual was a huge and glaring ball
of fire that with his last beams shot hot and angry glances of hate at
us, in rage at our defiance of his might. It was so strange and so
singular that only at this particular sunset, out of the millions
which have elapsed since this terrestrial ball first floated in ether,
that I, or indeed any White man, should stand upon this wretched hill,
so remote from the busy haunts of my fellow men. My speculations upon
the summit, if, indeed, so insignificant a mound can be said to have a
summit, were as wild and as incongruous as the regions which stretched
out before me. In the first place I could only conclude that no water
could exist in this region, at least as far as the sand beds extend. I
was now, though of course some distance to the south also, about
thirty miles to the west of the most western portion of the Rawlinson

From that range no object had been visible above the sandhills in any
westerly direction, except these ridges I am now upon, and from these,
if any other ranges or hills anywhere within a hundred miles of the
Rawlinson existed, I must have sighted them. The inference to be drawn
in such a case was, that in all probability this kind of country would
remain unaltered for an enormous distance, possibly to the very banks
of the Murchison River itself. The question very naturally arose,
Could the country be penetrated by man, with only horses at his
command, particularly at such a heated time of year? Oh, would that I
had camels! What are horses in such a region and such a heated
temperature as this? The animals are not physically capable of
enduring the terrors of this country. I was now scarcely a hundred
miles from the camp, and the horses had plenty of water up to nearly
halfway, but now they looked utterly unable to return. What a strange
maze of imagination the mind can wander in when recalling the names of
those separated features, the only ones at present known to supply
water in this latitude--that is to say, the Murchison River, and this
new-found Rawlinson Range, named after two Presidents of the Royal
Geographical Society of London. The late and the present, the living
and the dead, physically and metaphysically also, are not these
features, as the men, separated alike by the great gulf of the
unknown, by a vast stretch of that undiscovered country from whose
bourne no traveller returns?

The sun went down, and I returned to my youthful companion with the
horses below. We were fifty-one miles from the water we had left. The
horses were pictures of misery, old Buggs's legs had swelled greatly
from the contusions he had received in falling on the slippery rocks.
The old black mare which I rode, though a sorry hack, looked worse
than I had ever seen her before, and even the youthful and
light-heeled and -hearted Diaway hung his head, and one could almost
span him round the flanks. The miserable appearance of the animals was
caused as much by want of food as want of water, for they have
scarcely eaten a mouthful since we left the pass; indeed, all they had
seen to eat was not inviting.

We slowly left these desolate ridges behind, and at fifteen miles we
camped, Jimmy and I being both hungry and thirsty. Our small supply of
water only tantalised, without satisfying us whenever we took a
mouthful. We now found we had nothing to eat, at least nothing cooked,
and we had to sacrifice a drop of our stock of water to make a
Johnny-cake. It was late by the time we had eaten our supper, and I
told Jimmy he had better go to sleep if he felt inclined; I then
caught and tied up the horses, which had already rambled some distance
away. When I got back I found Jimmy had literally taken me at my word;
for there he was fast asleep among the coals and ashes of the fire, in
which we had cooked our cake. I rolled him over once or twice to
prevent him catching fire, but he did not awake. The night was very
warm; I tried to lay down on my rug, but I was in such pain all over
from my recent accident, that I could not remain still. I only waited
to allow Jimmy a little sleep, or else he would have fallen off his
horse, and caused more delay. I walked to, and tried to console, the
horses. Sleepless and restless, I could no longer remain.

Fast asleep is Armor lying--do not touch him, do not wake him; but
Armor had to be awakened. But first I saddled and put up everything on
the horses. Jimmy's lips were cracked and parched, and his tongue dry
and half out of his mouth; I thought the kindest way to wake him was
to pour a little water into his mouth. Up he jumped in a moment, and
away we went at three o'clock in the morning, steering by the stars
until daylight; slowly moving over sandhill after sandhill. Soon after
sunrise we fell in with our outgoing track, and continued on, though
we had great trouble to keep the horses going at all, until we reached
our old encampment of the night before last, being now only fifteen
miles from the water. For the last few miles the horses had gone so
dreadfully slow, I thought they would give in altogether. So soon as
they were unsaddled they all lay down, shivering and groaning

To see a horse in a state of great thirst is terrible, the natural
cavity opens to an extraordinary size, and the creature strains and
makes the most lamentable noises. Mares are generally worse in these
cases than horses. Old Buggs and the mare were nearly dead. Diaway
suffered less than the others. We had yet a small quantity of water in
our bag, and it was absolutely necessary to sacrifice it to the horses
if we wished them ever to return. We had but three pints, which we
gave to Buggs and the mare, Diaway getting none. What the others got
was only just enough to moisten their tongues. Leaving this place at
eleven a.m., we reached the gorge at sundown, travelling at the rate
of only two miles an hour. The day was hot, 104 degrees at eleven a.m.
When we took the saddles off the horses, they fell, as they could only
stand when in motion--old Buggs fell again in going up the gorge; they
all fell, they were so weak, and it took nearly an hour to get them up
to the bath. They were too weak to prevent themselves from slipping
in, swimming and drinking at the same time; at last old Buggs touched
the bottom with his heels, and stood upon his hind-legs with his
forefeet against the rock wall, and his head bent down between, and
drank thus. I never saw a horse drink in that fashion before.

It was very late when we got them back to the camp-tree, where we let
them go without hobbles. The ants were as rampant as ever, and I
passed another night in walking up and down the glen. Towards midnight
the horses came again for water, but would not return, preferring to
remain till morning rather than risk a passage down in the dark.

I went right up to the top of the mountain, and got an hour's peace
before the sun rose. In the morning all the horses' legs were puffed
and swelled, and they were frightened to move from the water. I had
great trouble in getting them down at all. It was impossible to ride
them away, and here we had to remain for another day, in this Inferno.
Not Dante's, gelid lowest circle of Hell, or city of Dis, could cause
more anguish, to a forced resident within its bounds, than did this
frightful place to me. Even though Moses did omit to inflict ants on
Pharaoh, it is a wonder Dante never thought to have a region of them
full of wicked wretches, eternally tortured with their bites, and
stings, and smells. Dante certainly was good at imagining horrors. But
imagination can't conceive the horror of a region swarming with ants
and then Dante never lived in an ant country, and had no conception
what torture such creatures can inflict. The smaller they are the more
terrible. My only consolation here was my marble bath, which the
horses had polluted; within its cool and shady depths I could alone
find respite from my tormentors. Oh, how earnestly did I wish that its
waters were the waters of oblivion, or that I could quaff some kind
nepenthe, which would make me oblivious of my woes, for the persistent
attacks of the ants unceasingly continued

"From night till morn, from morn till dewy eve."

Here of course we had no dewy eve. Only one slight source of pleasure
at length occurred to me, and that was, that Jimmy began to shift
about a bit at last. On the 26th, with what delight I departed from
this odious gorge after another night of restlessness, agony, and
misery, may perhaps be imagined, though of course I was indebted to
the glen for water, and unless we actually give up our lives, we
cannot give up that. There was a good deal of water in this bath, as
may be supposed when horses could swim about in it. I called it
Edith's Marble Bath, after my niece, having named Glen Edith also
after her on my former expedition. The stone here is not actually
marble, though very like it. I saw no limestone in this range; the
only approach to it is in the limestone formation in the bed of the
ancient Lake Christopher, mentioned as lying to the west of the
Rawlinson Range. The stone here was a kind of milky quartz. We kept
away as much as possible off the rough slopes of the range, and got to
Glen Helen at night, but old Buggs knocked up, and we had to lead,
beat, and drive him on foot, so that it was very late before we got to
the glen. We got all three horses back to the pass early the next day.
No natives had appeared, but the horses had never been seen since I
left. Oh, didn't I sleep that night! no ants. Oh, happiness! I hadn't
slept for a week.

The next day, the 28th of February, Gibson and Jimmy went to look for
the mob of horses. There was a watering-place about two miles and a
half south from here, where emus used to water, and where the horses
did likewise; there they found all the horses. There was a very marked
improvement in their appearance, they had thriven splendidly. There is
fine green feed here, and it is a capital place for an explorer's
depot, it being such an agreeable and pretty spot. Gibson and Jimmy
went to hunt for emus, but we had none for supper. We got a supply of
pigeons for breakfast. Each day we more deeply lament that the end of
our ammunition is at hand. For dinner we got some hawks, crows, and
parrots. I don't know which of these in particular disagreed with me,
but I suppose the natural antipathy of these creatures to one another,
when finding themselves somewhat crowded in my interior, was casus
belli enough to set them quarrelling even after death and burial; all
I knew was the belli was going on in such a peculiar manner that I had
to abandon my dinner almost as soon as I had eaten it. It is now
absolutely necessary to kill a horse for food, as our ammunition is
all but gone. Mr. Tietkens and I went to find a spot to erect a
smoke-house, which required a soft bank for a flue; we got a place
half a mile away. Thermometer 104 degrees. Mr. Tietkens and I
commenced operations at the smoke-house, and the first thing we did
was to break the axe handle. Gibson, who thought he was a carpenter,
blacksmith, and jack-of-all-trades by nature, without art, volunteered
to make a new one, to which no one objected. The new handle lasted
until the first sapling required was almost cut in two, when the new
handle came in two also; so we had to return to the camp, while Gibson
made another handle on a new principle. With this we worked while
Gibson and Jimmy shod a couple of horses. A pair of poking brutes of
horses are always away by themselves, and Mr. Tietkens and I went to
look for, but could not find them. We took the shovel and filled up
the emu water-hole with sand, so that the horses had to show
themselves with the others at the pass at night. For two or three days
we shod horses, shot pigeons, and worked at the smoke-house. I did not
like the notion of killing any of the horses, and determined to make a
trip eastwards, to see what the country in that direction was like. We
chopped up some rifle bullets for shot, to enable Gibson and Jimmy to
remain while we were away, as a retreat to Fort Mueller from here was
a bitter idea to me. Before I can attempt to penetrate to the west, I
must wait a change in the weather. The sky was again becoming cloudy,
and I had hopes of rain at the approaching equinox.

The three horses we required for the trip we put down through the
north side of the pass. On March 10th, getting our horses pretty
easily, we started early. As soon as we got clear of the pass on the
north side, almost immediately in front of us was another pass, lying
nearly east, which we reached in five miles. I called this the Weld
Pass. From hence we had a good view of the country farther east. A
curved line of abrupt-faced hills traversed the northern horizon; they
had a peculiar and wall-like appearance, and seemed to end at a
singular-looking pinnacle thirty-four or five miles away, and lying
nearly east. This abrupt-faced range swept round in a half circle,
northwards, and thence to the pinnacle. We travelled along the slopes
of the Rawlinson Range, thinking we might find some more good gorges
before it ended, we being now nearly opposite the Alice Falls. One or
two rough and stony gullies, in which there was no water, existed; the
country was very rough. I found the Rawlinson Range ended in fifteen
or sixteen miles, at the Mount Russell* mentioned before. Other ranges
rose up to the east; the intervening country seemed pretty well filled
with scrub. We pushed on for the pinnacle in the northern line, but
could not reach it by night as we were delayed en route by searching
in several places for water. The day was hot, close, cloudy, and
sultry. In front of us now the country became very scrubby as we
approached the pinnacle, and for about three miles it was almost
impenetrable. We had to stop several times and chop away limbs and
boughs to get through, when we emerged on the bank of a small gum
creek, and, turning up its channel, soon saw some green rushes in the
bed. A little further up we saw more, brighter and greener, and
amongst them a fine little pond of water. Farther up, the rocks rose
in walls, and underneath them we found a splendid basin of overflowing
water, which filled several smaller ones below. We could hear the
sound of splashing and rushing waters, but could not see from whence
those sounds proceeded. This was such an excellent place that we
decided to remain for the rest of the day. The natives were all round
us, burning the country, and we could hear their cries. This morning
we had ridden through two fresh fires, which they lit, probably, to
prevent our progress; they followed us up to this water. I suppose
they were annoyed at our finding such a remarkably well-hidden place.
It is a very singular little glen. There are several small mounds of
stones placed at even distances apart, and, though the ground was
originally all stones, places like paths have been cleared between
them. There was also a large, bare, flat rock in the centre of these
strange heaps, which were not more than two and a half feet high. I
concluded--it may be said uncharitably, but then I know some of the
ways and customs of these people--that these are small kinds of
teocallis, and that on the bare rock already mentioned the natives
have performed, and will again perform, their horrid rites of human
butchery, and that the drippings of the pellucid fountains from the
rocky basins above have been echoed and re-echoed by the dripping
fountains of human gore from the veins and arteries of their bound and
helpless victims. Though the day was hot, the shade and the water were
cool, and we could indulge in a most luxurious bath. The largest basin
was not deep, but the water was running in and out of it, over the
rocks, with considerable force. We searched about to discover by its
sound from whence it came, and found on the left-hand side a crevice
of white quartz-like stone, where the water came down from the upper
rocks, and ran away partly into the basins and partly into rushes,
under our feet. On the sloping face of the white rock, and where the
water ran down, was a small indent or smooth chip exactly the size of
a person's mouth, so that we instinctively put our lips to it, and
drank of the pure and gushing element. I firmly believe this chip out
of the rock has been formed by successive generations of the native
population, for ages placing their mouths to and drinking at this
spot; but whether in connection with any sacrificial ceremonies or no,
deponent knoweth, and sayeth not. The poet Spenser, more than three
hundred years ago, must have visited this spot--at least, in
imagination, for see how he describes it:--

"And fast beside there trickled softly down,
A gentle stream, whose murmuring waves did play
Amongst the broken stones, and made a sowne,
To lull him fast asleep, who by it lay:
The weary traveller wandering that way
Therein might often quench his thirsty heat,
And then by it, his weary limbs display;
(Whiles creeping slumber made him to forget
His former pain), and wash away his toilsome sweet."


There is very poor grazing ground round this water. It is only
valuable as a wayside inn, or out. I called the singular feature which
points out this water to the wanderer in these western wilds, Gill's
Pinnacle, after my brother-in-law, and the water, Gordon's Springs,
after his son. In the middle of the night, rumblings of thunder were
heard, and lightnings illuminated the glen. When we were starting on
the following morning, some aborigines made their appearance, and
vented their delight at our appearance here by the emission of several
howls, yells, gesticulations, and indecent actions, and, to hem us in
with a circle of fire, to frighten us out, or roast us to death, they
set fire to the triodia all round. We rode through the flames, and


The Rebecca.
The Petermann range.
Extraordinary place.
The Docker.
Livingstone's Pass.
A park.
Wall-like hills.
The Ruined Rampart.
Pink, green, and blue water.
Park-like scenery.
The Hull.
A high cone.
Sugar-loaf Peak.
Pretty hills and grassy valleys.
Name several features.
A wild Parthenius.
Surprise a tribe of natives.
An attack.
Mount Olga in view.
Overtaken by the enemy.
Appearance of Mount Olga.
Breakfast interrupted.
Escape by flight.
The depot.
Small circles of stone.
Mark a tree.
Slaughter Terrible Billy.
A smoke signal.
Trouble in collecting the horses.
A friendly conference.
Leave Sladen Water.
Fort McKellar.
Revisit the Circus.
The west end of the range.
Name two springs.

The country towards the other ranges eastwards appeared poor and
scrubby. We went first to a hill a good deal south of east, and
crossed the dry bed of a broad, sandy, and stony creek running north.
I called it the Rebecca. From it we went to a low saddle between two
hills, all the while having a continuous range to the north; this was
the extension beyond the pinnacle of the wall-like crescent. A
conspicuous mount in this northern line I called Mount Sargood*. From
this saddle we saw a range of hills which ran up from the south-west,
and, extending now eastwards, formed a valley nearly in front of us. I
called this new feature the Petermann Range. In it, a peculiar notch
existed, to which we went. This new range was exceedingly wall-like
and very steep, having a serrated ridge all along; I found the notch
to be only a rough gully, and not a pass. We continued along the
range, and at four miles farther we came to a pass where two high
hills stood apart, and allowed an extremely large creek--that is to
say, an extremely wide one--whose trend was northerly, to come
through. Climbing one of the hills, I saw that the creek came from the
south-west, and was here joined by another from the south-east. There
was an exceedingly fine and pretty piece of park-like scenery,
enclosed almost entirely by hills, the Petermann Range forming a kind
of huge outside wall, which enclosed a mass of lower hills to the
south, from which these two creeks find their sources. This was a very
extraordinary place; I searched in vain in the pass for water, and
could not help wondering where such a watercourse could go to. The
creek I called the Docker*. The pass and park just within it I called
Livingstone Pass and Learmonth* Park. Just outside the pass,
northerly, was a high hill I called Mount Skene*.


Finding no water in the pass, we went to the more easterly of the two
creeks; it was very small compared with the Docker. It was now dusk,
and we had to camp without water. The day was hot. This range is most
singular in construction; it rises on either side almost
perpendicularly, and does not appear to have very much water about it;
the hills indeed seem to be mere walls, like the photographs of some
of the circular ranges of mountains in the moon. There was very fine
grass, and our horses stayed well. We had thunder and lightning, and
the air became a little cooled. The creek we were on appeared to rise
in some low hills to the south; though it meandered about so much, it
was only by travelling, we found that it came from a peculiar ridge,
upon whose top was a fanciful-looking, broken wall or rampart, with a
little pinnacle on one side. When nearly abreast, south, of this
pinnacle, we found some water in the creek-bed, which was now very
stony. The water was impregnated with ammonia from the excreta of
emus, dogs, birds, beasts, and fishes, but the horses drank it with
avidity. Above this we got some sweet water in rocks and sand. I
called the queer-looking wall the Ruined Rampart. There was a quantity
of different kinds of water, some tasting of ammonia, some saltish,
and some putrid. A few ducks flew up from these strange ponds. There
was an overhanging ledge and cave, which gave us a good shade while we
remained here, the morning being very hot. I called these MacBain's*

Following the creek, we found in a few miles that it took its rise in
a mass of broken table-lands to the south. We still had the high walls
of the Petermann to the north, and very close to us. In five miles we
left this water-shed, and descended the rough bed of another creek
running eastwards; it also had some very queer water in it--there were
pink, green, and blue holes. Ducks were also here; but as we had no
gun, we could not get any. Some sweet water was procured by scratching
in the sand. This creek traversed a fine piece of open grassy
country--a very park-like piece of scenery; the creek joined another,
which we reached in two or three miles. The new creek was of enormous
width; it came from the low hills to the south and ran north, where
the Petermann parted to admit of its passage. The natives were burning
the country through the pass. Where on earth can it go? No doubt water
exists in plenty at its head, and very likely where the natives are
also; but there was none where we struck it. I called this the Hull*.

The main range now ran on in more disconnected portions than formerly;
their general direction was 25 degrees south of east. We still had a
mass of low hills to the south. We continued to travel under the lea
of the main walls, and had to encamp without water, having travelled
twenty-five miles from the Ruined Rampart. A high cone in the range I
called Mount Curdie*. The next morning I ascended the eastern end of
Mount Curdie. A long way off, over the tops of other hills, I could
see a peak bearing 27 degrees south of east; this I supposed was, as
it ought to be, the Sugar-loaf Hill, south westward from Mount Olga,
and mentioned previously. To the north there was a long wall-like line
stretching across the horizon, ending about north-east; this appeared
to be a disconnected range, apparently of the same kind as this, and
having gaps or passes to allow watercourses to run through; I called
it Blood's Range. I could trace the Hull for many miles, winding away
a trifle west of north. It is evident that there must exist some
gigantic basin into which the Rebecca, the Docker, and the Hull, and
very likely several more further east, must flow. I feel morally sure
that the Lake Amadeus of my former journey must be the receptacle into
which these creeks descend, and if there are creeks running into the
lake from the south, may there not also be others running in, from the
north and west? The line of the southern hills, connected with the
Petermann wall, runs across the bearing of the Sugar-loaf, so that I
shall have to pass over or through them to reach it. The outer walls
still run on in disconnected groups, in nearly the same direction as
the southern hills, forming a kind of back wall all the way.

Starting away from our dry encampment, in seven miles we came to where
the first hills of the southern mass approached our line of march.
They were mostly disconnected, having small grassy valleys lying
between them, and they were festooned with cypress pines, and some
pretty shrubs, presenting also many huge bare rocks, and being very
similar country to that described at Ayers Range, through which I
passed in August. Here, however, the rocks were not so rounded and did
not present so great a resemblance to turtles. At two miles we reached
a small creek with gum timber, and obtained water by digging. The
fluid was rather brackish, but our horses were very glad of it, and we
gave them a couple of hours' rest. I called this Louisa's Creek. A
hill nearly east of Mount Curdie I called Mount Fagan; another still
eastward of that I called Mount Miller. At five miles from Louisa's
Creek we struck another and much larger one, running to the north; and
upon our right hand, close to the spot at which we struck it, was a
rocky gorge, through and over which the waters must tumble with a
deafening roar in times of flood. Just now the water was not running,
but a quantity was lodged among the sand under the huge boulders that
fill up the channel. I called this the Chirnside*. A hill in the main
range eastward of Mount Miller I called Mount Bowley. At ten miles
from Louisa's Creek we camped at another and larger watercourse than
the Chirnside, which I called the Shaw*. All these watercourses ran up
north, the small joining the larger ones--some independently, but all
going to the north. Crossing two more creeks, we were now in the midst
of a broken, pine-clad, hilly country, very well grassed and very

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